Social Work

Re-Adjusting to Life in the Office

Over the past 18 months, we’ve become masters of getting up, prepping our top halves to be seen, downing our morning cup of coffee and hopping onto Zoom. In fact, by June of 2020, 42% of the American workforce was working from home. We’ve even learned to handle having our work space invade our living space, and many of us have gotten comfortable with our new normals. While many large companies have delayed a return to office with many adopting a more permanent remote option, many other employers are beginning to bring employees back into the office. That transition back to the old normal – especially now - is not without stress. Here are six ways to help you manage the transition.

Set Realistic Expectations

If going back to work means you’ll now be dealing with a long commute that will eat up a chunk of your day, you need to accept the fact that you won’t be able to show up everywhere, all the time, and cut yourself a break when you don’t. Sure, you can hustle to be at every social event, sports practice and Zumba class, but you’ll only end up exhausted. Think intentionally about what activities you need to keep, and which you can give up.

Understand that the Office May Not Look or Feel the Same

While many companies are doing their best to get back to a pre-covid sense of normal, it’s just not realistic at the current time. Most companies will be changing the way people socialize in the office, likely limiting time in meeting spaces, lunch rooms and break spaces, and even restrooms may look different. Before you return, learn what the new rules are, assess whether or not you are comfortable with safety measures and take time to digest all the information provided by your employer so there won’t be any surprises when you return. If possible, visit your office before your scheduled return date to get the lay of the land.

Reawaken Old Habits

You’ve likely become very accustomed to your work-from-home routine, so anything you can do to ease the transition to your old way of doing things will help you keep your sanity. Think about meal-prepping on Sundays to fill the fridge with easy meals and snacks for both yourself and the kids. Set out work and school clothes the night before, and iron the ones that need it. If you had a pre-pandemic morning routine that included a workout or a long walk with the dog that got pushed to other parts of the day while working from home, try to get back to that schedule before you HAVE to get back to it. It will feel challenging and foreign for a little while, but your body will remember!

Be Compassionate with Yourself and Others

The pandemic has been tough on individuals and families across the world, and many are struggling with mental health issues, both from isolation and from anxiety surrounding a return to socialization. Keep in mind that everyone has experienced the pandemic differently, that some people may have lost loved ones, some have been dealing with home-schooling their kids and managing the stress and anxiety that comes with it, and that while some people are excited to return to work, others may be dreading it. As you return to work, acknowledge rather than ignore the stresses of your commute, your fears related to workplace safety and your anxiety over your struggle to find childcare. And remember, whatever you are feeling, it is likely someone else is feeling it, too. Give yourself a break, and be patient and compassionate with coworkers who are navigating their own transition back to the office.

Give Feedback

As employers navigate their employees’ return to the workplace, the smart ones will ask for employee feedback about how the process is going. So, don’t be shy about giving yours! A return to work is going to hit everyone differently, whether you’re single, married, a caretaker, a parent with young kids, a new employee or a long-time one. Each person’s opinion and experience should be valued and acknowledged by employers, but they can’t address what they don’t understand. So, fill out those surveys, answer those emails and speak up when your employer wants your opinion.

Reserve the Right to Move On

If the powers-that-be in your workplace don’t seem to make the welfare of the employees a priority, if office rules are too excessive, too lax or too arbitrary, or if the bosses can’t wrap their heads around why so many employees are jumping ship, remember, nothing is permanent. Many organizations are open to flexible work schedules with weekly time divided between working from home and coming into the office, and many are open to employees remaining totally virtual. The time we spend at work makes up such a large percentage of how we spend our lives, and while few jobs are perfect, some are better than others. So many companies are looking for new talent post-pandemic, so don’t be afraid to look around if your current situation is too stressful to be sustainable.